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Patty Duke hopes talk helps Interplayers


Actress has high hopes for ‘Intimate Conversation’

Patty Duke has several goals for her three-day gig at Interplayers, “An Intimate Conversation: Patty Duke,” starting tonight:

• She wants it to be like a live, local version of “Inside the Actor’s Studio,” with local actor-director Reed McColm playing the James Lipton role of host.

• She wants to connect, in a neighborly way, with her fellow Inland Northwest residents.

• And she wants to help Interplayers raise plenty of cash.

“We were a little audacious in thinking that an evening with Patty Duke could make some funds for the theater,” she said with a laugh. “I’m hoping it will.

“You know, I have loved all of the theaters in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, and I don’t want them to go anywhere.”

Duke, who is known as Anna Pearce to her Coeur d’Alene neighbors, said she’ll talk mostly about the art and craft of theater and acting.

Few actors anywhere can draw on such a wealth of experience. She debuted on Broadway in 1959 as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker” and recently finished a year’s run as Madame Morrible in “Wicked” in San Francisco.

In between she has played hundreds of movie and TV roles.

“I can’t keep a job!” she said.

More accurately, she’s had the same job since she was 7.

“It’s been 55 years,” Duke said of her acting career. “Can you imagine being able to say that? It’s so outrageous to me.”

Equally outrageous is her amazing collection of statuettes. She has won an Oscar, three Emmys and two Golden Globes.

She’s exceptionally qualified to talk about stage, movies and television, and about the tremendous changes she has seen over the decades.

Right now, she’s frustrated by the same market forces that have decimated the rest of the Hollywood creative industry.

“Ever since they decided that reality programming was the answer to God’s question, a lot of us sit around twiddling our thumbs,” Duke said.

At age 63, she’s been thinking about retirement someday – but not yet.

She’ll probably also talk about another upcoming gig at Interplayers. She’ll direct “The Miracle Worker” at the theater next spring.

“This has been a part of my life for 50 years,” she said. “When I go back to Tuscumbia, Ala., where Helen Keller was born, you’d think Helen Keller had come back.

“Oh my God, I’m treated like royalty. I’ve been there at least once every three years for decades.

Duke said she doesn’t want these three talks to be “all about moi.” But she realizes that people will want to hear about her personal life as well.

“I’m willing to go there for the cause,” she said.

She has no reticence about talking about manic-depressive illness, which she has lived with all of her life and is a major subject of her books, “Call Me Anna” and “A Brilliant Madness.”

Duke said that if people want to ask her mental health questions, she’s “front and center.”

Is she at all nervous about doing these three “Intimate Conversation” shows without a script?

No. It’s just a visit with friends, she said.

“I am at ease with audience members,” she said. “The give-and-take gets me going.”

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